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Nip, then tuck: Race suit alterations improve safety and comfort for not much money

Apr 07, 2014

If you're like me, you have a hard time finding gear that fits off the rack. With track gear, it's especially important to have a proper fit, but there's no way the race-suit manufacturers can make a range of sizes to fit all of us. Turns out, the answer is far easier and less expensive than I imagined.

I’d heard stories of people having their suits tailored, but I’d assumed that sort of customization was left for guys with last names like Marquez, Lorenzo and Rossi. I was riding with my friend, Cody, one day and he was telling me how he’d lost a bunch of weight, which while a fantastic accomplishment, had left his favorite race suit far too large to wear on the track anymore. Even the arms of the suit were too big and didn’t provide the snug fit you want that keeps the armor in the right place when you need it most.

I mentioned that I’d always wanted to explore the idea of getting a suit tailored, as I have my own fit issues, so we started researching who had expertise in our local area.

I called around for recommendations and was given the number of Anthony’s Leatherworks in Corona Del Mar, Calif. We stopped by one afternoon, suit in hand, to see if it was feasible and as it turns out, the process is fairly easy and not outrageously expensive.

Getting measured is a simple and easy process. Photo by Sean MacDonald.

Cody put on the suit and discussed with the tailor which areas he felt were problematic. The tailor had a ton of experience with leather race suits and was able to point out many areas where either more or less room was needed, based on certain riding positions. He took a few basic measurements and made a few marks with chalk in various places on the suit and told us we were done. Overall, the process only took about 15 minutes and then we just had two wait two to three weeks to see if the guys at Anthony’s could really cut away the right amounts in the right places to make the suit fit again.

Anthony's Leatherworks work with a variety of leathers. Photo by Sean MacDonald.
Three weeks later, we received a call that the suit was done. They asked Cody to try the suit to make sure they’d gotten everything right and, this time, I wasn’t surprised when it fit like a glove. The arms fit perfectly, the waist fit trim, yet still allowed for movement, and the seat and shoulders were all cut down to do the same. A visual inspection of the suit revealed no signs of their work. It looked as if it had been cut this way stock. Cody was in shock that the same suit that previously fit him with an additional 60 pounds on his body could fit so well.

“Dude, thanks so much, this thing fits better than anything else I’ve ever worn!” was the text I received a week later, after Cody had taken the suit out for a spin on one of the local routes.

We met again a few weeks later to hit Angeles Crest Highway and get some photos of the suit. He gushed about what a big difference the tailoring made when riding in the suit. Unfortunately for our photography mission, he hit a gravel patch and low-sided a few turns up the hill that cold morning before we could get any glamour shots on the bike.

Most importantly, the suit did its job. The first thing he said to me was, “I’m so sorry for wasting your day.” The second was, “I’m so glad I crashed after I got this suit tailored because everything stayed right where it needed to.”

The elbow panel was badly damaged from where he’d slid on it, but the armor had stayed in place to protect him and the stitching held in all of the panels that had been altered.

Unfortunately, Cody got to test the suit's ability to stay in place during a crash. Photo by Sean MacDonald.

If that isn’t a testament to making sure your gear fits correctly, even if that involves some extra charge to get it cut to your size, I don’t know what is. The tailoring job cost $180 at this particular shop. It’s better to get a slightly less expensive suit and get it altered to fit right than to wear a fancy suit that compromises your safety or ability to control your motorcycle because it doesn’t fit you.

We’d recommend Anthony’s Leatherworks to any of you Southern California readers, but we’d love to see your local leather tailor recommendations in the comments below.